Hezb'allah: A Chicken on the EU Terror List
The United States, Canada, Israel, the Netherlands, and Bahrain designate Hezb'allah a terrorist organization; Britain and Australia outlaw only Hezb'allah's "terrorist wing" but permit its "political wing" to organize and raise money (only for political activity, of course). A motion by Britain will put the British/Australian formula on the agenda of the European Union, perhaps as early as June. In one sense, it is a step forward for the EU, which currently looks upon Hezb'allah's activities as unremarkable. In another sense, however, it is absurd.
Chickens have wings; terrorist organizations have partners in crime.
Outlaw governments provide money, arms, passports, space to train and hide, and political support to terrorist organizations. Terrorists provide plausible deniability to governments for the bloody mayhem they produce. It is the symbiosis that allows for large-scale terrorism. Sometimes terrorists become governments -- the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Taliban -- but it doesn't change their nature or their goals. In each case, the money and political legitimacy of the "political wing" is shared with the "military wing," to the detriment of both their own civilian populations and those they attack outside. Hezb'allah shot its way into the majority of seats in the Lebanese Cabinet, but it remains uninterested in potholes and trash collection.
Western governments are loath to cut off recognition or aid for fear of the negative publicity that would attend Facebook pictures of sad and presumably hungry children in Muslim countries. Even the U.S., which considers Hamas a terrorist organization, gives money to UNRWA with the full knowledge that UNRWA employs Hamas operatives. Germany, Norway, and France claim only to put money into specific projects to help "the people." But money is fungible -- every Euro that runs a school or a clinic is a Euro that a terrorist organization doesn't have to spend doing that; it is a Euro that can be spent on guns, bombs, and training. Hamas offers summer camp, for example, a good, civilian activity, except that boys win badges in radical Islamist ideology, raw anti-Semitism, and paramilitary training.
It's not complicated. Think KKK with Kiddie Kare. Would you fund it?
Hezb'allah is an outpost of Iran on the Mediterranean Sea. The Islamic Republic has been at war with the United States since 1979 and regularly threatens Israel with annihilation. Hezb'allah, the proxy, has been part of the war since it blew up the American Embassy in Beirut and then murdered 248 American Marines in 1983. It is heavily implicated in the 1992 attack in the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and the 1994 attack on the Argentine Jewish Center; it launders money in South America, stands accused by the U.N. of the 2005 murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in a car bombing, and ignores U.N.-issued arrest warrants in the case. It took control of the Lebanese Cabinet in 2008 by force of arms.
That was not enough to make the EU list it as a terrorist organization.
Hezb'allah's own charter makes it clear that its goals include "Israel's final departure from Lebanon as a prelude to its final obliteration," making it not a national organization defending its own territory, but one dedicated to the eradication of a U.N. member-state. In 2002, Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in The New Yorker, "'If [the Israelis] go from Shebaa, we will not stop fighting them,' [a Hezb'allah official] told me. 'Our goal is to liberate the 1948 borders of Palestine,' he added, referring to the year of Israel's founding. The Jews who survive this war of liberation... 'Can go back to Germany, or wherever they came from.'"
In 2006, Hezb'allah kidnapped eight Israeli soldiers from inside Israel and killed them, precipitating the war in which Hezb'allah fired missiles and rockets -- full of shrapnel to increase their lethality -- on the civilians of Haifa. It circumvented U.N. Resolution 1701 in 2006 that insisted that only the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) could have weapons south of the Litani River, and put rocket launchers and arms depots inside civilian houses all across southern Lebanon. The bombing of a tourist bus full of Israelis in Bulgaria was only the successful one of Hezb'allah's many plots against Jews in Europe and in South America.
It still was not enough to make the EU Terrorist Top 10 list.
The precipitating factor in the end wasn't actually terrorism at all. Elite Hezb'allah troops poured into Syria over the weekend in a conventional military effort to help Assad's army retake the rebel-held town of Qusayr. It was not a great success -- at least 40 militiamen were killed, probably the largest death toll of Hezb'allah operatives in a single battle, and Qusayr is still in rebel hands. But it is astonishing that after Hezb'allah's years of successful bloody terrorism against Israeli, American, French, and other Western interests, it is a mostly failed exercise in conventional warfare that got the attention of the European Union.
Shoshana Bryen is senior director of The Jewish Policy Center.